Walgreens Partnership Boosts Humana's Medicare Enrollment
By Bruce Jepsen – Forbes – February 7, 2019
Humana says its joint venture with Walgreens Boots Alliance is helping boost enrollment in Medicare Advantage, the fast-growing privately administered health coverage for U.S. seniors.
Humana reported a 9% increase in Medicare Advantage membership the health insurer attributed to physicians at more than 230 clinics including two sites inside Walgreens stores. It’s the latest sign showing the early stages of a joint venture between Humana and the nation’s largest drugstore chain is working and could be expanded beyond a pilot in the Kansas City market.
"Our 233 owned, joint ventured and alliance clinics, the majority of which are payer agnostic, including our two 'Partners in Primary Care' clinics inside Walgreens stores experienced positive results in the annual election period," Humana CEO Bruce Broussard told analysts Wednesday during the company's fourth quarter earnings call. "Humana MA membership grew over 9% in these clinics in the (annual election period) excluding the more mature Conviva clinics."
Humana, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars acquiring and partnering with medical care providers in recent years, said its relationships helped it take Medicare Advantage market share away from rival insurers. Humana said it expects 2019 individual Medicare Advantage membership growth of “375,000 to 400,000 members, representing 12% to 13% growth,” the insurer reported Wednesday as part of its fourth-quarter 2018 earnings release.
Walgreens and Humana last year opened “senior-focused primary care clinics” inside drugstores as a way to complement Walgreens pharmacy services and Humana’s Partners in Primary Care centers that opened last year in Kansas City. The effort is designed in part to keep people out of the more expensive hospital setting and make sure Medicare patients have their care more closely monitored by Walgreens pharmacists and physicians in Humana’s health plan networks.
The two companies think they can do a better job of reaching patients who visit Walgreens retail locations and making sure they get better care upfront before they get sick. When the partnership was announced, Walgreens and Humana called it “a senior-focused neighborhood approach to health that brings together primary care, pharmacy, in-person health plan support and other services for Medicare beneficiaries.”
The Medicare Advantage growth is key for Humana, which is in a competitive battle with rival insurers like Aetna, UnitedHealth Group and Cigna, looking to tap into a market of more than 10,000 baby boomers aging into the Medicare population every day.
Medicare Advantage plans contract with the federal government to provide extra benefits and services to seniors, such as disease management and nurse help hotlines, with some even providing vision and dental care and wellness programs. CMS is changing regulations to allow Medicare Advantage plans to provide broader coverage in the future, which is also expected to boost enrollment. L.E.K. Consulting has projected Medicare Advantage enrollment will rise to 38 million, or 50% market penetration by the end of 2025.
Humana ended 2018 with 3.06 million individual Medicare Advantage members, which was up 7% from 2.86 million as of Dec. 31, 2017.